LEGO and Video Games: Building Quality Titles or Stepping on Creativity?

Ilya S. Savenok/GettyImages

As a child, I was obsessed with both LEGO sets and video games. If I needed a break from staring at screens while gaming, I would pull out my box of assorted LEGO pieces and build whatever came to mind, and whenever I got tired of the hard plastic bricks pinching my hands I would go back to battling enemies in whatever video game I was enthralled with at the time. Knowing that, you can only imagine the excitement I felt the first time I played a LEGO video game. 

I will never forget the first time I was exposed to LEGO video games. It was the first day of summer break after finishing first grade and my father had taken seven-year-old me to the local Movie Gallery, a Blockbuster-type store. While he was perusing the various movies for rent I was scouring the video game section in hopes of finding something to celebrate the end of the school year.

As I was flipping through the games I came across LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the Nintendo Wii and I was instantly enthralled. What better combination for a science-fiction nerd who also loves building-block toys? Without an ounce of hesitation, I picked up the game and took it over to my father, my eyes beaming with joy, and begged him to let me rent it for the weekend. After all, it was now summertime and I did not have any homework to worry about. He happily obliged, especially considering that the game had co-op play that would allow my older nephew to play with me whenever he was at our house.

Within an hour of playing the game for the first time, I became addicted to everything about it. Between playing through scenes from my favorite movie franchise as humorous plastic replicas and having the creative freedom to build my own characters to play as, there was nothing about this game that I did not enjoy. 

The crossover of LEGO into video games has only become more prevalent as gaming has expanded as both an artistic medium and a business-focused industry. There have been licensed tie-in games for popular franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park as well as completely original entries such as LEGO City Undercover, proving this concept to be quite lucrative for publishers to pursue.

Toys-to-life video games, ones in which players use real-life toys to control an in-game universe, were arguably nothing more than a “flash in the pan” trend, but even this niche subgenre of games found itself dominated by LEGO with the game LEGO Dimensions. What set LEGO Dimensions apart from other toys-to-life games was that instead of only using figurines to unlock characters and vehicles, this game allowed players to flex their creative muscles by building certain mini sets in their living room and then transfer those creations to the game. 

Why are we talking about LEGO video games today? With the heavily rumored LEGO game centered around the Horizon: Forbidden West universe as well as the influx of video game-specific LEGO sets it is evident that there is no sign of these crossovers slowing down. This begs the question, are these LEGO experiences helping developers expand the market appeal of their intellectual properties, or are they stifling creative resources that could otherwise be utilized to bring entirely new experiences to the gaming community? 

There is no denying that there is a sizeable market for LEGO video games. The first two Batman tie-in games sold over 27 million copies across all platforms as of 2021, according to VGChartz. In December of 2023, Epic Games introduced LEGO into their ever-expanding Fortnite to both critical and fan praise with GameRant reporting that at launch, LEGO Fortnite’s player count surpassed the main battle royale mode.

Do I think that this sector of the video game market poses a threat to other potential games? Not particularly, no. I fully acknowledge the perspective that by focusing on licensed properties developers are taken away from making other games, but that does not take too much away from the benefits of LEGO video games. For people such as myself who have a fondness for building and creating with LEGO in their free time, these games could serve as a strong entry point into gaming. All it takes is falling in love with one game to cause a snowball effect leading to players exploring genres that they otherwise would have never thought of delving into. 

These LEGO games also offer a unique level of humor that is not often found in other types of video games. A common trope found in many of these entries is that the LEGO people cannot speak so they use dramatic expressions and in some cases over-the-top prop comedy to convey storylines. Millions of people have watched the Star Wars movies, for example, so using more comedic effects to translate the story into LEGO adds a layer of thoughtfully humorous references.

One of my favorite moments from LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is during one of the episode five missions when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke Skywalker’s father. Most of us know the iconic line from the movie, “No, I am your father,” but in place of dialogue, the LEGO version of Darth Vader looks to Luke and holds up a Polaroid photo of him and Padmé during the height of their relationship to explain the connection between him and Luke. Quirky moments such as this do not happen in most video games, making them all the more enjoyable when they do take place. 

LEGO games have consistently been some of my favorite ones to go back and enjoy when I need a more casual experience and I do not see that changing anytime soon. Not every video game needs to be a five-hundred-hour-long open-world RPG that forces players to analyze every single frame to understand the lore. Sometimes having a game that is short yet engaging can be just as enticing. 

How do you feel about LEGO video games? Have you played any of them and is there one that is your standout favorite? Let me know and as always, game on friends!